Over the past month, the BBC has been facing some increasingly uncomfortable questions. A rival television station aired an exposé in early October on beloved BBC presenter Jimmy Savile (dead since last October), alleging he was a pedophile who used his fame to prey on girls throughout his career, bringing the broadcaster under fire. Who at the organization knew of Savile’s alleged actions? How did he get away with allegedly molesting, abusing and raping girls as young as 10? And why, late last year, had the BBC’s own exposé of Savile been axed, with tribute specials running instead? The questions have even crept across the pond, to the New York Times, where former BBC director-general Mark Thompson is about to step in as CEO. What did he know about the Savile scandal?
These are all questions that have plagued the corporation and will likely continue to do so for some time. As Catherine Mayer points out in this week’s TIME magazine, since the scandal erupted, the British media have been enthralled, particularly over the questions swirling around the BBC. Yet the public broadcaster isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the only institution feeling the heat in the wake of the allegations.
While Savile is accused of abusing girls in his very own BBC dressing room, his alleged victims have also come forward to report that he routinely molested or assaulted girls at hospitals and schools. Widely thought of as a philanthropist, he was given almost free rein at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Leeds General Infirmary and Broadmoor Hospital to the point where he had his own on-premises bedroom at two of them. While the National Health Service is facing its own independent inquiry into how an alleged predator was given so much access, it appears the police have been asking their own questions. Thursday’s edition of the Guardian reports that three doctors are now being investigated “over claims that they were at the centre of a loose network of child abusers connected with Savile.”
Likewise, those who were in charge at the Duncroft Approved School for Girls in Surrey will be facing similar questions. The institute, which was a government reform school for troubled girls in the ’70s, also has a history with Savile. One of his first alleged victims to come forward, Karin Ward, recounted how she met the star during her time there, at the age of 14. “He used to take us girls out,” she told the filmmakers for the Oct. 3 exposé. “Everybody knew he was a perv. Everybody knew he was going to be groping and wanting sex and other things, worse things than just plain sex.” In addition to a police investigation into Savile’s actions, the Surrey county council has said it will pursue its own inquiry into the Duncroft school.
It’s still early days in the Savile scandal, with police reportedly following leads on more than 200 possible victims. Yet it’s tempting to look at Britain’s other recent media scandal — that would be the News of the World phone-hacking ordeal — for clues as to how the Savile story will play out. And as the fallout of hacking reached some of Britain’s biggest institutions, including the government and Scotland Yard, before the dust settled, it’s easy to suspect that there will be many, many more questions about Savile to come.